The Brisbane Lions returned to contact training this week and there’s no doubt that letting a fiercely competitive bunch of footballers loose after a long period of non-contact led to a few nervous moments for the conditioning staff. High Performance manager Damien Austin tells the Roar Deal podcast that although the usual suspects were happy to throw their weight around, the session ran smoothly.
There’s no prizes for guessing which Lion was at the forefront of Damien Austin’s thoughts as the boys got back into full training this week.
Training in pairs during the isolation period and then in groups of eight during the first week back when contact was not allowed under the AFL’s Covid 19 protocols had everyone looking forward to some physicality.
None more so than Mitch Robinson.
Austin said it was stressed to the players the need to gradually build up towards proposed match play after a couple of sessions and the group responded well.
And he reckons the extra tempo that came with the addition of contact created a buzz that flowed through the group.
“Fages said we wanted to build into these processes, so it was a bit of a stepping stone and a common sense approach,’’ he said of the first session.
“Obviously you’ve got Mitch Robinson and a few others who were quite excited to get tackling again, but it’s good, it brings enthusiasm and they actually enjoy it.”
Austin has one of the toughest jobs at the Club, getting the group ready for the return to play in the short period provided.
He says that job has been made easier by the work the players did while in isolation, free from the watchful eyes of his staff.
“Over the 8 week period they have had reasonably solid running sessions and we’ve tried to put in skills work they can do in pairs,’’ he said.
“It is more the contact involvement, the step-up in regards to an AFL game where there is obviously bigger hits and bigger contact and then replicating decision making under that type of fatigue.
“That’s what we are trying to build up and replicate.
“Our players have come back in really good shape and it is a credit to them, now it is just reinstating that decision making, reaction time how you react to contact and deal with fatigue, it is different to just running.’’
Austin said the players also deserved to be commended for their discipline adopting the AFL’s protocols, especially on the second week back where they were able to resume contact work .
Switching from the distancing rules to full contact and then back again was an unusual situation but the players had proven to be adaptable.
“It is weird, they arrive at different times and we separate them into different rooms so there is enough room for social distancing while they prepare, get strapped and so forth and then they come out at separate times,’’ he said.
“Then we get into normal training.
“Then we have social distancing again whenever we have stops in training, their water bottles are separated by social distances.
“But then again in training, they are warming up together, they are tackling, they are doing contact, so it is a bit different.
“We are trying to keep it as normal as possible without going too far.’’